Grace was right. The statue was gorgeous, no doubt about it, and it was worth a fortune in gold. As pricey as it had been back in the 17th century, it would be worth millions today, maybe in the tens of millions. That was a treasure, indeed. But, none of the Willick cousins believed Francis Wainwright ever meant this stunning memorial to his wife, and exquisite piece of art in its own right, to ever be sold. So, was the legend of the treasure based purely on the sentimental value of the statue, and not its monetary one?
The five of them stood in the semi-darkness of the back of the Wainwright family tomb, deep into the Ipswich hillside, the statue lit up only by their flashlights, its golden form gleaming against the light it probably hadn’t seen in more than two centuries. Was there something else, something they were missing?
“If this is the treasure, I’m satisfied with that,” James announced. “I say we take a bunch of pictures of it, from all angles, and put them in our official family history, along with the way we found it. We can add to Grandma’s log of what the previous generations did, and leave it at that. Say the treasure was found.”
“I agree,” Adam chimed in. “This has to be the treasure, right? I mean, what else could it be? “
“And, we can’t publicize its discovery,” Emily added. “That statue is valuable. If anyone outside of the family knew it was here, they might try to break into the tomb and take it. Philippa’s statue is a family heirloom. We have to protect her. Francis would want us to.”
“So would Grandma,” Christine reminded them.
Meanwhile, Grace was moving around the statue with her flashlight, examining it closely. Every now and then, she tapped on it or placed her hand in a dip or around a curve on the representation of their many times great-grandmother.
“She’s so beautiful,” Grace said softly. “I mean, Philippa herself is… was… a beautiful woman. Her inner beauty shines through in this statue just as much as her outer beauty. It’s easy to understand why Francis loved her so much. But, the statue itself is so perfectly made. It’s soft, smooth. Sure, it’s got some dust and dirt on it. That’s to be expected after so long in the hillside. But, other than that, she’s flawless. You wouldn’t even know she was more than three centuries old.”
Adam frowned at her. “That’s all lovely and such, but what are you doing with her? You seem like you’re looking for something.”
Grace nodded. “I am.”
“What, exactly?” Christine asked.
“Any sign of a hollow part of the statue, or anything that might indicate a hidden compartment.” Grace tapped on the statue again.
“Thinking that the so-called real treasure may be in there?” Emily asked.
Grace smiled. “Exactly.”
Christine, James, Emily, and Adam looked at each other, and each shrugged in turn.
“Why not?” Christine finally said, speaking for the group. “We’ve come this far. We may as well know if we need to go farther, or if this is the true treasure.”
Grace worked her way down the statue until she reached its thick wooden base. A few more knocks around its edge, and she found it. A hollow sound. It was hard to see in the dark, even with her flashlight, but she eventually felt a tiny divot in the wood. Training her flashlight directly on it, she saw it more clearly.
“Aha!” she cried in triumph.
Pushing in on the divot, she found the wood gave way just a little. It was slowly at first, and whatever hinges or grooves that moved it were stiff with the passage of time, but she eventually got it to move enough to push all the way in.
The hidden panel in the base of the statue was a small rectangular piece of wood, about three inches long and an inch tall. It was only about a quarter inch thick. And, it pushed into the base of the statue to reveal a hidden compartment, two inches tall and carved about a foot into the base.
There was a wrapped paper package inside, tied with old, yellowed twine.
“Guys,” she called. “There is something in here.”
The cousins waited, wide-eyed, as Grace pulled out the package.
No one said a word as she carefully untied and unwrapped it. A rectangular wooden box was inside, with two delicately and ornately carved faces on the lid, one of a man and one of a woman. Grace guessed they must be Francis and Philippa. The woman’s face certainly bore a strong resemblance to the one on the statue.
Christine took the ancient parchment paper and twine, and refolded it, laying the twine in a spiral on top.
Once Grace held the box firmly box of light-colored wood in one hand, and her flashlight in the other, she could feel movement. There were a few things either rolling or sliding around inside.
She knelt down in the dirt at the bottom of the tomb, and the others did the same, gathering around her in a circle. Grace set the box on her thighs, not wanting to get it dirty. Like the statue, it was still remarkably clean after so long in its hiding place. She wondered if the generation who moved the statue into the tomb even knew about the hidden compartment, much less what was in it. This could be the first time since the statue was built that anyone had laid hands on this, or seen what was inside of it.
With one hand, she reached out and closed the compartment on the statue. She could always open it again if this was something they needed to hide.
As everyone waited reverently, Grace lifted the lid off the box (it had no hinges), and handed it to Emily for safekeeping. Those carved faces alone were worth a fortune, probably belonged in a museum, and needed protecting.
There were several objects inside the box, and they would examine each of them in turn. However, the one that interested her the most, and was the first thing she lifted out, was the leather-bound journal. On the cover, burned into it with an old-fashioned leather burning tool, were the words they had all been hoping would be stamped on something, something that would give them a clue that they were on the right track, or had found the right thing.
The journal’s cover read: “The Treasure of Francis Wainwright.”